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5 Drawbacks of Switching to Online Therapy Due to COVID-19

Like many other people in therapy and treatment these days, it looks very different for me than it did just a couple of weeks ago due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Instead of going to the office or treatment center, my therapy is in my bedroom, on my laptop. I am incredibly grateful this is an option for me because not having it would be bad, especially since the increased anxiety, fear, uncertainty and scarcity have been triggering my eating disorder thoughts and behaviors something fierce. But there are definitely drawbacks to online group and individual therapy, and certain things that I miss about in-person therapy and intensive outpatient program (IOP) that I took for granted until I didn’t have it as an option.

1. I miss the side conversations with other clients.

The ones we have in the waiting room before group. The ones where we talked about our favorite shows, movies, books, etc. I miss talking about pets, and jobs, and basically anything that doesn’t directly relate to therapy.

2. I miss being in the same physical space as my therapists and the other clients.

I miss being able to see everyone’s’ body language. I miss seeing the artwork in the office. I miss everyone sitting in their favorite chair, or if we were trying to challenge fear of change in a safe place, everyone sitting in a new place. I miss pulling into the parking lot and looking for everyone’s cars.

3. I miss the commute.

Because I commute around a 40 to 45-minute drive one-way to therapy and group, I miss the transition time. Now, because everything is online, my usual transition period between leaving my house and going into session is gone. I’ve struggled with making a new one; for the most part, I’ve only found that I’m waiting around the computer, debating on how early is being “too early” to log into my session (although as someone who is always very early, the only difference with this and previous times is that I would sit in my car and have the same “how early is too early?” debates with myself).

4. I miss the comfort of my routine.

I miss showing up to my IOP, putting my meal in the fridge, topping off my water bottle, filling out the daily self-report form and signing in. I never knew how much comfort that particular routine gave me until I didn’t have it due to the necessary shut down of all in-person appointments at my IOP and therapist’s office.

5. I miss having one or two specified safe spaces for me to process my emotions.

This also ties into point three because once I got done with my sessions where I processed emotions, I had the space in the commute back home to work on further containing them outside of what I did in session. Processing painful emotions and memories doesn’t feel as safe to do in my bedroom as they do in a therapist’s office.

I’m grateful that telehealth is even an option at all because to not have the resources to process my emotions, fears and memories would be much worse for me. I was already struggling with eating disorder behaviors before the majority of the shutdowns and restrictions due to COVID-19 happened, and that’s only increased within the past couple of weeks, so to have something, even with these drawbacks, is so much better than having nothing.

That still doesn’t mean I’m not grieving my so-called “normal” life and routines. I believe I am adaptive (along with humanity as a whole) and able to make changes. That doesn’t mean they’re easy — only that they’re possible.

If you are also struggling with the change from in-person sessions to telehealth sessions, I see you. I understand you. You are not alone in this.

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